by Dr. Will Cole
It’s a toxic world and nobody can avoid toxins completely, unless they live in a bubble (and probably not even then). You can try your best to eat clean and green, but as long as you eat food, drink water, and breathe air, you will be subjected to some toxins. Add to that variations in individual genetic tolerance for toxins (i.e., mutations in the body’s natural detoxification systems), and you can see why it is uber-important to get your natural detoxification system working as well as it possibly can.
We all know those people who seem to be able to handle stress, toxins, and anything else life throws at them, like the person who smokes three packs a day and lives to be 80. Then there are those with less tolerance, like the person who gets lung cancer at 40 from secondhand smoke.
We all have different thresholds for toxin exposure. For example, many people, including myself, have methylation impairments such as the MTHFR gene mutation. Not only do these gene changes increase your chances of developing autoimmune conditions, they also inhibit your body’s ability to handle toxins.
I have written many times about how stress, poor diet, food intolerances, infections, and leaky gut syndrome could trigger the genes that turn on autoimmune reactions, and toxins are one part of this puzzle. Specifically, xenobiotics are chemical compounds (such as drugs, pesticides, or carcinogens) that are foreign to our bodies and could trigger an immune system overreaction, implicating them in the initiation, progression, and exacerbation of autoimmune diseases. Here are some examples:
- Mercury: Exposure can come from some seafood and also from mercury amalgam dental fillings
- BPA: Common exposures come from many plastic products
- Vinyl chloride: Exposure could come from some tap water sources as well as off-gassing from vehicle upholstery and plastic kitchenware that is heated.
- Organic solvents: Common in some paints, varnishes, lacquers, adhesives, glues, and cleaning agents, and in the production of dyes, plastics, textiles, printing inks, agricultural products, and pharmaceuticals.
- Formaldehyde: Exposure is likely to come from many skin, shampoo, and cleaning products
- Heavy metals: Found in some tap water as well as many skin, hair, and cleaning products
- Pesticides: Found in nonorganic foods and water supply
Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to lower your exposure to toxins, even if you can’t eliminate them completely. These efforts can ease the burden on your body’s detoxification system and protect or help to restore your health. Here’s what I recommend:
1. Get a comprehensive health history.
A functional medicine look at health starts with a detailed health history, including an assessment of your environment at home, work, and the toxins you might be exposed to on a daily basis. Some common toxin-filled environments can be:
- Autobody repair shops
- Nail and hair salons
- Dental offices
- Factories using chemicals
- House cleaning and janitorial service
- Moldy buildings
- Buildings containing lead paint
2. Find out if your body has created antibodies to toxins.
I recommend running blood labs to see if your immune system is creating antibodies against some of these toxins, fueling inflammation throughout the body.
3. Address inflammation and immune disregulation.
When managing autoimmune conditions, your primary goal should be to control inflammation levels and balance the immune system. To start, I recommend healing the microbiome, managing stress, and cleaning up your diet, among other tips.
4. Clean greener.
Conventional dish soaps, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and household cleaners contain harmful chemicals. Ditch those and look instead for products labeled nontoxic, especially those with plant-based ingredients. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit group doing work on this topic, has a great guide to nontoxic cleaners.
5. Use essential oils instead of toxic fragrances.
Instead of using toxic air fresheners, candles, and colognes or perfumes, opt for essential oils. They’re a great alternative to toxic fragrances and in addition, they can have potent healing qualities.
6. Bring the outside in.
One way to clean the air you breathe is by having fresh, well-kept household plants inside your house and work space. Spider plant, dracaena, garden mum, and peace lily are all great indoor plants to purify your indoor air.
7. Use nontoxic personal products.
Remember, your skin is your biggest organ, and it absorbs all the toxins that are in conventional soaps, shampoos, and makeup products. Instead of store-bought lotions, try using pure almond, jojoba, or coconut oils on your skin instead – these natural options are excellent for moisturizing and repairing dry skin. There are also great nontoxic beauty options out there for your hair, skin, and nails.
8. Wear natural sunscreen.
EWG research suggests that 84 percent of sunscreen products are harmful to consumers. At the same time, many of us take avoiding sun exposure too far and are vitamin D deficient as a result, which can further trigger autoimmune problems. Opt for safe nontoxic sunscreens instead – and aim for around 10 minutes of sun exposure every day without sunscreen.
9. Support methylation.
Methylation, a biochemical process, happens more than 1 billion times a second in your body to keep you alive and healthy, and one of its primary purposes is detoxification. Many people with immune problems have genetic methylation impairments, such as MTHFR gene mutations, which makes it difficult to detox on your own. To boost your body’s ability to detox, support methylation pathways with these super detox foods:
Green leafy vegetables
Methylation requires folate, which is found in greens like kale, collards, chard, and spinach. Make sure to fill up on lots of nutritious greens every day. If you find you can’t handle the roughage of raw greens, cooking them first can help mitigate any gastrointestinal upset.
Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and asparagus also support methylation.
Organic organ meat
Grass-fed organ meat, like liver, is the most bioavailable-rich source of B vitamins on the planet, which are essential for optimal methylation.
10. Use superfoods to detox your body.
Make sure to bring detoxing foods into your day, such as:
- plantain leaf
- red clover blossom
Whether you use them in smoothies, on salads, or with your meals, rotating these foods throughout your week is a great way to turn your meals into good detoxing medicine.
11. Drink clean water.
Use a quality water filter in your house to remove at least the majority of common toxins that are found in most municipal water supplies.
12. Dump the toxic nonstick cookware.
The chemical compound used to make Teflon can be very difficult for the body to eliminate. Instead of using Teflon or other cheap nonstick cookware, try cast iron or nontoxic ceramic.
If you want to learn more about your own health case please check out our free health evaluation. We offer in person as well as phone and webcam consultations for people across the country and around the world.